The Case for Action in the A38

A modern A38 to support Plymouth’s plans to grow the region’s economy for years to come – that’s what the city, Cornwall and co-signatories of the A38 Case for Action have asked of Government.

A delegation of MPs and Councillors, including Plymouth MPs Luke Pollard and Johnny Mercer met Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling to ask for this key trunk road to be part of the next Road Investment Strategy – which will shape Highway England’s future investment from 2020 to 2025.

The delegation set out a number of short term improvements they want:

  • Capacity and safety improvements to the A38 junction at Manadon Roundabout to help unlock growth in the northern corridor
  • Capacity and safety improvements to Deep Lane Junction. (These will complement Plymouth’s Transforming Cities Fund which will help to facilitate the construction of the Park & Ride)
  • Improvements at Menheniot/Lean Quarry junction to address safety issues. (This will also complement the Transforming Cities Fund which would  facilitate the construction of Park and Rail facility and taking advantage of more frequent local train services between stations in Cornwall, Plymouth and beyond being introduced from 2019)
  • Capacity and safety improvements to Bodmin Parkway station.

 Proposed programme of improvements to the A38 between Bodmin and Exeter [PDF, 1MB]  

The delegation reiterated concerns over the A38’s safety record.  Over five years, there have been 830 injury collisions between Bodmin and Exeter, of which 16 were fatal and 104 serious – that’s three and half times the national average for this type of road.

In total on the A38 between Bodmin and Exeter there have been over 1,500 unplanned closures in the last five years, which equates to six closures every week.  This compares poorly to the A30 where there were less than 500 unplanned closures in the same period.

Annually over 1.2 million vehicle hours wasted by business travellers every year through delays, whilst investment in the A38 has the potential to generate £890 million in wider benefits to the area’s economy.

In the long term the delegation is collectively calling for national funding for a strategy for the A38 from Exeter to Bodmin, so that costs, timescales and benefits of upgrading this route to a modern standard can be clearly understood.  This will include widening of the A38 between Weston Mill Junction (Naval Base access) and B3413 Forder Valley Interchange.

Shaping the future of England’s strategic roads – Consulting on RIS2

From 13th December 2017 to 7th February 2018 the Department for Transport consulted on their proposals for the Strategic Road Network (SRN) and its current and future needs.  In response to this, the City Council published their ask of RIS and sought the support of local residents and businesses.

A report summarising the responses to the consultation was published on 29th October 2018.  Given the number of responses received by the Department for Transport the A38 in Devon and Cornwall has been included within the Investment Plan proposals.  This means that the Department will consider the case for investment in this as part of their development of the RIS2 Investment Plan.  Whilst they (the Department) cannot commit to advancing any specific scheme proposals, they will, with Highways England, undertake more detailed analytical work on potential costs and benefits to understand issues around deliverability and environmental impact.

The Case for Action – The Evidence Base

In 2014 Highways England published their Route-based Strategy for the South West Peninsula [1].  This highlighted a number of locations within Plymouth where delays are frequent and congestion often occurs.  The regions worst performing link resides at Manadon Junction and the approaches to it, which is why it is vital we secure investment to rectify these issues during RIS period 2.

Beyond Plymouth’s boundary the A38 from Saltash to Bodmin and Deep Lane to Exeter suffers from inconsistent road and junction standards, low quality maintenance and in places there is a poor safety record that needs to be addressed.  We are therefore promoting a collective, cross boundary approach to long term, sequenced and integrated investment for the A38 in the South West Region. 

A38 Existing Performance Report

A38 Future Performance Report

A38 Wider Area Performance Report

The Economic Benefits for the Region

The ‘A38 Case for Action – The Wider Economic Case for Investment' in the A38 study indicates that the historic lack of strategic investment in the road is holding back regional economic growth.  It shows that nearly £900m of productivity growth and induced investment would be gained by improving the A38 between Bodmin and Exeter.  This will encourage new investment, business start-ups, and benefit growing industries such as aerospace marine science, engineering and renewables as well as the area’s well established tourism sector.

The Wider Economic Case - Technical Report 

The Wider Economic Case

The A38 between Bodmin and Exeter is the critical strategic road link for the South West Peninsula, linking Cornwall, Plymouth, Torbay and Devon with the rest of the UK. The majority of the region’s current economic activity and planned future growth is on or around the A38 corridor.

Highway England’s research [2] demonstrates that sectors heavily dependent on the Strategic Road Network (SRN) employ 7.4 million people and contribute £314 billion in GVA to England's economy. These sectors (leisure and tourism, advanced manufacturing, retail, wholesale and logistics) could potentially grow by 35% by 2030, yet the SRN will not cater for all of this growth without investment. 

In its present form the A38 will struggle to support our growth agenda due to the: variable standard of road, limiting junction capacities and the sheer volumes of traffic that rely on this single route. 

By modernising and enhancing the standard of the route we can provide: journey time reliability, increased capacity and improved road safety which is needed to support our housing, jobs and growth targets. 

Regional Support 

Cornwall Council, Devon County Council, Torbay Council, West Devon Borough Council, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership and Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership along with key business stakeholders in the region are all backing the A38 Case for Action.

No More Time to Lose

Of the £15bn that was invested in the Strategic Road Network during RIS period 1, no investment was made available to enhance A38 between Bodmin and Exeter.  With the onset of RIS2, we need to address this imbalance by vocalising our support for investment in A38.

What You Can Do

The Department for Transport formulating their Road Investment Strategy 2 programme and have sought a wide range of views from those who use the Strategic Road Network.

Our RIS2 priorities are: Widening the A38 between A386 Manadon Junction and the B3413 at Forder Valley; Widening the A38 on the approaches to Weston Mill Junction; Improvements to Deep Lane Junction including the provision of a Park & Ride site; Capacity and safety enhancements to A38 Manadon Roundabout; and a route based study that produces a long term investment plan for the A38 from Bodmin to Exeter.  

Hopefully these priorities align with your own aspirations for A38.  Whatever your views may be, they can only be considered if you submit them.  You can do this by emailing: RISFuture.consultation@dft.gsi.gov.uk.

Thank you for your consideration in this matter, and your support.